U.K. Workers Stay on Furlough Despite Employers Paying More
The number of Britons on furlough remained stable in early August, despite the government reducing the generosity of its wage-support program.
About 7% of businesses’ employees were on full or partial furlough, in line with the estimate in late July and the lowest since the pandemic began, the Office for National Statistics said Thursday. It estimated the number of people furloughed at between 1.6 million and 2 million.
The figures cover the period from Aug. 1, when the government reduced its contribution to 60% of an employee’s pre-pandemic pay from 70%. Companies now pay 20%, and there had been fears they would respond to the extra burden by making staff redundant. The key test comes on Sept. 30, when the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ends altogether.
The ONS figures are higher than previously estimated, reflecting methodological changes. It brings them closer into line data from the U.K. tax authority, which estimated there were almost 1.9 million job furloughed at the end of June.
The ONS said that more than 60% of the total were partially furloughed in early August, meaning employees were working some hours. Almost one quarter of the workforce in service activities like the beauty treatment industry were on partial or full furlough leave.
Businesses were asked for their experiences for the reference period July 26 to Aug. 8, though some may have responded from the point the questionnaire was completed on Aug. 22, the ONS said.
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